Castle Season 3
June 8, 2012

After what’s happened on Castle this current season (the fourth), my enjoyment of this series has dropped. I thought maybe going backwards would remind me of what I liked more about it, but if you want to follow that path as well, I suggest skipping the season opener and the commentary track that goes with it. It’s yet another example of “how artificially can we reset the status quo THIS time?” The cliffhangers seem like they’ll advance the characters and their relationships; the season premieres hit the reset button as fast as possible so as not to disturb the cash cow.

Some of the episodes also seem to be scripted around whatever scenes will look best in the ads. Still, it’s those silly teasing moments that keep me watching. I think there’s a mismatch here — I want the show to be Moonlighting, and the creators sometimes seem to want it to be some kind of blend of Die Hard and The Sopranos.

I enjoy the stand-alone mystery episodes best, and I wish they’d stay far away from the mythology installments about Beckett’s mother’s murder. Just wrap it up and be done with it. There are plenty of other kinds of situations that will put them in mortal danger and allow for the resulting dramatic moments. I will say that watching their faces during these moments shows just how good an actor Nathan Fillion is. I love his reactions.

I also suggest skipping the “Starter Kit” summary of the show so far; the only thing I enjoyed about it was being reminded how fast Beckett had grown out her hair and swapped the sensible cop clothes and shoes for ridiculous heels. I know this show isn’t meant to be great or artistically accomplished, just evening pablum for the tired and bored, but it is disappointing to me how obvious the mechanics have become. Yet I still enjoy watching it, and I do notice new things on the second time though.

When I had a very bad couple of days this month, I gave up the internet except for Castle fanfic. Reading those stories gave me a brand-new appreciation for some of the episodes (as well as a rationale for the heels), so yay for fan-created explanations and enjoyment. Those pieces provide what the official writers won’t or can’t — tales that focus almost entirely on getting the two characters together and having them share the secrets the TV show makes them keep. They’ve made me like the episodes so much more. I know I shouldn’t confuse the two, but the best stories take off directly from television things and make them into something more. Many of them take things the characters have shown the viewers but kept secret from each other and finally have the two share them together.

(Plus, in this particular case, there’s a fascinating continuum, since the series has released its own fanfic in the official “Castle-written” novels. Man, if I was still in grad school, I’d be choosing this for my thesis. Instead, I’ve gotten a tad obsessive over it.)

Beckett and Castle in L.A.

Beckett (Stana Katic) and Castle (Nathan Fillion) in L.A.

Best part of the show: Castle getting outsmarted by his daughter Alexis. Frequently. She also gets a continuing storyline about her first boyfriend relationship. Other high point episodes and moments for me were:

  • “Punked”, the one with the steampunk duel, just for the costuming
  • the dead doctor and the male nurse, because the mystery in “Anatomy of a Murder” kept moving with plenty of twists
  • the one with the body caused by explosive decompression, because it features Lyle Lovett as a mysterious agent and Castle has to meet his daughter’s boyfriend’s parents. Also in “Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind”, there’s a Chinese joke as an allusion to Serenity.
  • when Laura Prepon, being considered to play “Nikki Heat” in the movie, hangs out with the detectives and turns herself into a Beckett clone. One of the best episodes of the season!
  • best bomb defusing scene ever, in a two-part terrorism episode (“Setup” and “Countdown”)
  • that’s followed by the one where they have to figure out who killed the “Temptation Lane” soap opera writer (“One Life to Lose”), because I have huge fondness for TV detectives investigating television shows, plus Beckett explains “shipper” to Castle. (I don’t buy for a minute he wouldn’t know what that was, but even if so, it wouldn’t be the first time he pretended he didn’t know something just to flatter her. Ahem, Forbidden Planet.)
  • the case of the dead swimmer in the pool, “The Dead Pool”, where Castle works with a protege writer who makes him jealous, because any episode with the writers’ poker game is better, only this one is sad because they remember the loss of Stephen J. Cannell.
  • “To Love and Die in L.A.”, the trip to Hollywood guest-starring D.B. Sweeney. Man, that scene where he welcomes her to first class.

Castle formal cast photo

(I don’t know where this promo photo came from — I found it at the Castle wiki — but it’s weirdly terrific.)

For bonus material, in addition to a sprinkling of deleted scenes and a four-minute blooper reel (which caused actual laughs), there’s a 22-minute “Murder They Wrote” roundtable with author Michael Connelly, show creator Andrew Marlowe, producer Rob Bowman, and shockingly, Brian Michael Bendis. Turns out that this feature exists to heavily promote the then-upcoming Castle graphic novel, which is why he’s there, since he co-wrote it. (It’s Disney, so no bonus can exist without selling something.) Shame, this could have been a really interesting discussion if we didn’t waste so much time on hearing Bendis blathering about how cool it was he came to write Spider-Man. Bless Nathan Fillion for showing up and bringing some much-needed humor (and attractiveness) to the session. (My favorite thing about the comic is how, when Castle shows off the cover in the final episode this season, he calls Derrick Storm “the new sheriff on the spinner rack.” Otherwise, I couldn’t finish it.)

The eight-minute “Castle Goes Hollywood” covers the L.A. episode, with brief comments by the actors and some alternate takes on the Gene Simmons cameo. It also answered one of my questions, after seeing some of the weird outfit choices for Stana Katic, about who the costume designer is. Seeing him and his hat explained a lot. The DVD set also has a three-and-a-half-minute featurette on how the Murder Boards are put together and a music video for “Get on the Floor” from the “Lucky Stiff” episode, featuring footage of Beckett and Castle in the club scene.

4 Responses  
JennyN writes:  

I enjoy the stand-alone mystery episodes best, and I wish they’d stay far away from the mythology installments about Beckett’s mother’s murder. Just wrap it up and be done with it. There are plenty of other kinds of situations that will put them in mortal danger and allow for the resulting dramatic moments…. being reminded how fast Beckett had grown out her hair and swapped the sensible cop clothes and shoes for ridiculous heels

Oh, snap! I’ve been rewatching S3 too, and these are my thoughts *exactly*. It’s not that I don’t enjoy longer story-arcs – I remember watching one of the first series to employ them, Stephen Cannell’s 1989 Wiseguy, and the almost shock of realising that what had happened in one episode would be recalled in, and influence, what happened in the next. But the creative team behind Wiseguy had the sense to keep them relatively short (the one that *every* fan remembers, the Steelgrave arc, lasted a scant nine episodes) with a beginning, a middle, and an end – the latter usually packing a lethal emotional punch. The more recent approach tends to build up the ongoing mystery until the payoff can’t help but be a let-down. Also, while the early parts of such a storyline are often tightly plotted, later – and especially in popular shows which will be spun out until they implode – it becomes inconsistent or plain incoherent, a weight dragging down the show rather than enhancing it. (White Collar has suffered badly from this, and so in a different register has Supernatural). The real story of Castle is that Rick Castle is finally growing up, and that Kate Beckett has allowed herself to feel *all* the pain her mother’s death caused and assimilate it into her own emotional coming of age. Which is, as you say, often illustrated best in the stand-alone episodes.

(As for Beckett’s hair and clothes, well. That is one aspect of the show I wish the creators would revisit, because as Beckett’s grown her gamine crop into long film-premiere curls and taken to posing on five-inch heels, her persona has also been “feminised” i.e., in TV terms, become far less effective. A lot of the humour in the first season grew out of the contrast between sensible, grown-up, professional Beckett and immature, playful, self-indulgent Castle. As a cop, she took the lead in investigations and interrogations – not to mention saving Castle’s ass on numerous occasions – while he definitely remained the tag-along civilian. Now he’s routinely consulted even by the female chief of police who – understandably – mistrusts him, sits in on interrogations as of right and rescues a noticeably less competent Beckett from danger. This has been especially marked throughout S4, and the show’s once fresh and refreshing approach is in danger of lapsing into the tiredest Hollywood cliche as a result. Hopefully S5 *will* reboot this).

Johanna writes:  

I am so glad I am not the only person feeling this way. Great analysis. I agree. I started being a little more accepting of the glamorization after reading some stories that positioned it as a visual sign of her letting go of her armor, but I still have issues with the idea of a cop taking an hour to curl her hair before heading to a crime scene. It’s just so stunning to put the first season DVD set next to the third and see how much her appearance has changed.

James Schee writes:  

I’m a bit tired of the who killed Beckett’s mom plot lines too. Conspiracy theories, at least as far as this one seems to be, just doesn’t suit the overall tone of the show to me. It is still one of my favorite shows though, I love the humor and how often times the danger isn’t oppressive, which makes when the stakes are really high things stand out.

It is also just about the only show where I love the characters family, Alexis. I loved her job at the police dept this year.

I haven’t really had any problem with the slow buildup/restarts of the Beckett/Castle stuff, because I enjoy that aspect of will they or won’t they. I guess that comes from seeing how once a show loses that it can struggle a bit. The most obvious example is Moonlighting of course. Yet I thought Chuck struggled with that as well after he and Sarah got together, at least for one season.(final season, up to a point it was great)

I guess we’ll see if Castle and Beckett have that same issue this upcoming season.

Metafiction Sends ABC Down the Rabbit Hole With Derrick Storm Series » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] Storm” books, which was the series we see him concluding at the beginning of the Castle show. (And I’m not even mentioning the various comics and graphic novels with the character.) […]


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